A Midwest Road Trip for Baseball FansBy Jess Moss
You’re a baseball stat wunderkind, not unlike Jonah Hill’s character in “Moneyball.” So your ultimate summer road trip has to be all about baseball, beer, and modern Americana. If you’re in the Midwest, the drive from Chicago through Ohio and Kentucky and on to St. Louis is a must. You’ll cheer with some of the sport’s most spirited fans, pay respects to one of its oldest ballparks, see where bats get made and learn how the game was played back in the day. Here’s the route:
If you have to choose, and you don’t have an allegiance, lean toward history with a visit to Wrigley.
The ballpark is more than 100 years old — it’s the second oldest baseball stadium in the country. Or, for something a little different, watch a game from the bleachers that top the townhouses surrounding the stadium.
Either way, don’t leave without trying a Chicago dog, either in its traditional hotdog-in-bun form, or in one of the more innovative takes on the dish (Chicago dog Bloody Mary, anyone?).
From Chicago, it’s about a four-hour drive across Michigan to Detroit.
Another baseball town, Detroit has one of the oldest teams in the American League. Catch a game at Comerica Park, where you’ll not only spot the team’s namesake big cat all over the stadium, you can also ride a Ferris wheel and carousel.
But baseball isn’t the only hometown scene in Detroit. The city’s undergoing a major revival, with a Made in America mantra and a focus on local brands. Pop into popular homegrown boutiques like Shinola for local leather goods and watches and City Bird for home décor and jewelry.
From Detroit, head south past Lake Erie. Continue about three and a half hours through Ohio to your next stop: Columbus.
Ohio has two major league baseball teams, and neither is based in Columbus.
So why’s it on the route? For something different: the city is home to the Ohio Village Muffins, a vintage that plays by 1860s rules.
The first rule of Muffins baseball? Don’t call it baseball — historically the sport’s name was two words: base ball. Pitchers also must throw underhand, there aren’t really balls or strikes, and players aren’t allowed to argue or curse.
Hit the road for an easy drive down to Cincinnati — if traffic’s on your side, this should take less than two hours.
You could say that Cincy is the original baseball town.
The city was home to the first all-pro organization in the sport, the Cincinnati Red Stockings, and later was one of the first teams in the National League. Catch a game here and be sure to check out the ballpark’s museum and hall of fame — it’s the largest team hall of fame in the league.
Head southwest out of Cincinnati for about 2 hours and 15 minutes to reach Louisville.
Ironically, one of the cities most tied to the sport doesn’t have a big league team. That doesn’t mean you’ll be lacking entertainment.
The Louisville Slugger museum here not only offers tours of the famous bat factory (you’ll watch them make bats that’ll be used in the majors days later), you can hit the batting cages yourself with bats made for the sport’s greats, from Babe Ruth to Derek Jeter. While you’re here, check out the local Bourbon scene.
The official Bourbon Trail is outside of town, but many distilleries have moved tasting rooms right near the Slugger museum, so you can do an tasting without touching your car.
Leave Louisville and head west through Indiana toward St. Louis. After an hour or two you’ll come to a different kind of baseball nostalgia: the Hollywood type.
Huntingburg and Evansville, Indiana
There’s no crying on a baseball road trip, but fans of the movie A League of Their Own may get choked up with nostalgia with a visit to the fields used in the classic movie.
In Huntingburg, League Stadium served as the home field for the Rockville Peaches in the film, while over in Evanston, Bosse Field was used for Racine Belles games in numerous scenes (it also appeared in an HBO movie, Soul of the Game). Both fields are home to active teams, so check the schedules if you want to catch a game here.
Continue west about two and a half hours to the last stop on your tour: St. Louis.
You may not agree with the city’s claim that it has the best fans in baseball, but it’s hard to ignore the energy that runs through this town on game days.
Ballpark Village is ground zero for all baseball action in the city — you can pregame with local beers (that includes Budweiser — it’s from the Lou), catch concerts, and watch the sportscasters do their thing.